During the first 10 days of January, colder winter weather moving across South Carolina has reminded both anglers and their quarry that winter is here.

In the confines of Lake Russell, cooler weather means water temperatures dipping into the lower 50s, and that means trophy sized striped bass, brutes ranging from 20 to 40 pounds, have moved into the deeper waters out in front of the Russell dam.

Over the past week, Mark Crawford of Sasser Guide Service said he's getting plenty of big bites, and he's batting .500 on getting trophy rockfish to the boat.

"Earlier in the week, we had a 29-pound fish come to the boat, and Monday, one of my regular clients, Jason Cunningham, landed a 39-pound fish," said Crawford (706-373-8347). "Unfortunately, we also had two more fish that would dwarf the big one hang up get off in the trees."

Crawford said the surface water temperature has been around 51 degrees, moving Russell's big stripers into the lake's forests of submerged timber. Most anglers realize that Russell's trees make ideal habitat for all species of fish; the problem is getting them out. To do so, Crawford offers them something that's hard to refuse.

"All week, I've been pulling nothing but big trout," he said. "Those fish are down around 40 feet, holding tight. We've been running big rainbow trout down around 12 feet, and that tends to draw them out."

Crawford is a free-line aficionado, using side-planer boards to spread out his baits, and then trolling them above the submerged forests.

"I'll run six trout at a time, two on each side behind a planer board and two on flat lines behind the boat," said Crawford. "Then we're working the tops and edges of the trees trying to get the big boys to come out and play."

Crawford suggests that the best bite for trophy stripers comes early and late in the day, when low-light conditions make the somewhat wary fish more susceptible. Additional opportunities arrive on cloudy and or windy days when the free-lining bite can last later into the morning and crank back up earlier in the afternoon.